On Friday, January 21, 2005, I woke up with a swollen neck and back pain. My grandmother said I would have to go on to school because I had an important math test that morning. She said she would pick me up at 11:00am. I only wanted to go home and take a nap when she came for me. She called my pediatrician, Dr. Feltus, only to find she was gone on Friday afternoon. My grandma told Susie, the nurse, that she thought I had the mumps, but was quickly corrected because I had had the immunization. Susie told us to go in Saturday morning to the doctor on call and get checked out Ė it could be a bad case of strep throat. It wasnít strep.
On Monday, I went in for blood work. Maybe it was mono! Tuesday morning, the doctor saw us in her office, but the blood work was not back. Wednesday morning we returned and told her I had chest pains during the night. By now, I was really freaking out! She sent us for chest x-rays. By the time we got home, she called and told us to come back to her office right away. She then told us that I might have lymphoma or leukemia and sent us home to pack a bag to go to the hospital. She set up a biopsy for the next morning. Things were moving so fast and we were afraid.
On Thursday, I had my first surgery, a biopsy. I had a hard time waking up and couldnít get enough oxygen. My lung area was filling up with fluid. Later, they did a complete body CT scan. Dr. Feltus and her other partners were right there with me. They were wonderful! There were tests, tests, and lots of doctors and nurses.
Friday morning, they drained 1160ccís of fluid from around my lungs while my grandma held my hand. I wished I was taking another math test instead. Later that day, on January 28th, Dr. Yandel came into my room. IĎll never forget his words, ďYou have cancer! To be exact, it is a rare form, T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.Ē And so it began, a spinal tap for a bone marrow biopsy and then came a series of surgeries for a triple Hickman (catheter), then an Ommaya reservoir (for receipt of chemo). All kinds of tests were done for heart, lungs and kidneys.
From being a carefree surfer, enjoying living at the beach and attending my senior year at high school, I had become a victim of cancer, fighting for my life! I moved from the pediatric floor to the cancer floor. I had met a vast number of care givers. A whole new vocabulary was born: lymphoma, triple Hickman, Ommaya reservoir, hyper C-Vad, methotrexate, vincristine, adriamycin, to name a few.
I was told from the start that I would have to go through eight rounds of the chemotherapy. Then would come a bone marrow transplant followed by radiation. It was overwhelming, but I just had to go day by day.
Nothing is exactly from a text book, and my case was no exception. I was in and out of the hospital for many months. There were many blood transfusions and platelet transfusions. We learned to read the blood work. What are the counts? That was always the question. Although I felt that my home had become the hospital and I had so many nurses, they were all wonderful to me!
During my treatments, my teachers came to the hospital or home to home school me so I could graduate on time. I will forever be thankful for their support and time! Graduation was a highlight that they made possible.
Throughout my illness, I met and bonded with new friends as we went through this ordeal together. Age didnít matter. We shared our stories and our life as we fought our battle every day. We laughed and cried and enjoyed daily meals together. Sometimes, I didnít know if I would make. My grandma saved my life being by my side since day one.
After months of treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, the American Cancer Societyís Hope Lodge and Holmes Regional, I returned to recuperate at the beach. I longed for a ride on just one wave, but was grateful that I would once again have that opportunity.
Then, I arrived at the Cancer Care Center (CCC) for the final round of radiation treatment. I started with a new group of doctors and nurses and a whole new treatment. I went everyday for five weeks. Dr. Holasek, my radiation oncologist, was very patient with me; she took time explaining all of the pictures and procedures that would be done at CCC. All of the staff made my time spent in treatment as pleasant as possible.
Now, I am cancer free. I am a survivor! I have a new lease on life. Life is good. I want to become a nurse to help others. Thanks to the American Cancer Society, I have a scholarship to Brevard Community College (BCC). I want to be able to give back to society now and am glad that I can. I have had many life-changing experiences and have so much to be thankful for. All around me, I was surrounded by loving and caring people.
Hi, my name is Christopher L. Duncan, Jr., my wifeís name is Krishana S. Phipps-Duncan. On April 18, 2007, our lives changed. Our daughter Arianna Duncan, who was just 21 months old at the time, was diagnosed with a rapid growing (Wilms Tumor) located in her right kidney. She wasnít feeling sick, she appeared perfectly healthy. What prompted our visit was a bulge in her stomach, on the right side underneath her rib cage. To our surprise it was her kidney. The doctors said that her kidney had enlarged and that there was a tumor connected to her kidney. I knew my life was about to change but I didnít know how.
I called my church and the Bishop came and prayed with my wife and I. Later on that night we were transported from Palm Bay Community Hospital to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando. All day, April 19, Arianna did about 20 different test, for some reason this is when she started to look sick, her eyes were drooping and watery and she didnít want to eat which was totally unnatural for her because she is a champion eater.
On Friday morning April 20, it was time for surgery; it was one of the most scary moments for us. They told us that they would have to remove her Kidney. Thatís our baby and most of all, my little girl. We found ourselves worrying and things that we never thought that we would think of started to come out and fear set in. The 4 hour surgery will forever feel like the longest 4 hours of our lives. We sat upstairs in the room by the phone waiting for a call and didnít receive one. Finally about 6 hours later we received a call from the nurse that she was in recovery. They came for us and took us to where she was. Wow, I must say what a moment. I kissed her and looked at her like I was seeing her for the first time. My wife just stood and looked because she hated to see all the tubes on her. A few hours passed and as I was in a light sleep I heard Arianna say eat, eat. (that is what she says when she is hungry) I knew that my little girl was ok. My wife jumped up and ran to look at her and was just telling her how much she missed her. It didnít take too long to recover from surgery she was only in there for about three days until they moved her back to the 7th floor.
She is currently receiving chemo therapy. Time goes by fast, we are almost at 22 weeks of treatment, another 4 weeks and she will be finished with her chemo. She is a survivor and she is our miracle baby. She lives a normal life despite of having one kidney. This has been a time in our life to let us remember that we must take everyday with time, patients and understanding. It has also taught us the importance of telling you children that you love them, for months we have told her that, we love her and to our surprise out of now where she hugged my wife and said I love you. It was the best moment, times like that you can never replace. Arianna turned 2 years old on August 18, 2007 and she is doing great.
Everyone credits there safety and success to something or someone, we credit it to God first and the angels that he has placed around us, two of them being Marta and Vicky from the Cancer Care Foundation. We were led to them from a worker at the SSI office.
Since day one of our interaction they have been attentive to every need. For many months our utilities were paid without question. There was not a long list of requirements that you had to go through or a time frame you had to wait to be approved. They researched the information and once they knew that you needed help they did not hesitate. Life has been an easier load to carry by having The Cancer Care Foundation there to help us. Even after exhausting the allotment that was given, they were able to help go above and beyond that to help us to save our house when we were facing eviction.
Because of our situation we have never met anyone from the Foundation, we have been in contact through a phone and e-mail relationship. We wish to meet them one day to personally thank them, we would also like to meet the board of directors. Its takes a certain amount of caring and commitment to run a organization like this. It is something that is natural and cannot be bought. I vow that one day we will be able to give to this foundation in abundance so that they can continue the excellent work. If there is any organization out there giving away money, give it to them.
The Cancer Care Foundation takes their cause and mission seriously, they treat everyone with a warm and friendly level of respect, lets just say they treat you as a friend, and we donít think that they will ever tell you no in your time of need, they wonít. I can attest that they are committed to changing lives and they are good at it. My wife and I wrote everything about the foundation not to praise them for there work, but we outlined it to remind everyone of the committed organizations out there that are doing good work to help families day by day. Thank you guys for all your help.
The Duncan Family